Friday 10 February 2017
Ecuador: restart together!

Meeting with the communities of the province of Esmeraldas affected by the earthquake.

Ecuador’s coastal line, which was stricken by a violent earthquake last year, is still in a complex situation.  Unfortunately the earthquake swarm still persists with important shocks, and this does not allow people to look ahead with serenity.

Nevertheless, the activities planned in the town of Salima, Macara and “10 de Agosto”, in the province of Esmeraldas have been completed. In Amu, Lia Guillen follows the work with the local organization and during her trip there last November, she also identified  other needs and problems. Solutions are now being studied. What is certain is that here the earthquake hit communities already struggling with a very obvious situation of poverty. Job insecurity and high unemployment have a strong impact in all areas of life: housing, food, health, education.

«I went to Ecuador, says Lia Guillen, to visit the communities hit by the quake, but also to meet the various associations that together work on the reconstruction project. In addition to the commission especially set up for this purpose by the local Focolare Mouvement, there is Fundación Ecuatoriana Populorum Progressio (FEPP) and Fundación Amiga (FA), all cooperating with the communities. Furthermore there has been the participation of the team of Dialoghi in Architettura (Dialogues on Architecture) and Lhab (Laboratory of Social Management of the Territory) enriching the project with their professional contribution. After their visit they organized the convention “ArchitetturAlLimite” (Architecture On the edge) that covered interventions in architecture with a social approach and have brought to the attention of the participants the result of the encounter with the communities.

With them I visited the three communities that AMU is supporting with the contributions arrived for this emergency. We visited their neighborhoods, known people and noticed the problems that they themselves have identified as most important. I had confirmation of the necessity that there had been reported previously, and saw for myself the extent of the problems.»

In particular, what needs have been highlighted in the meeting with the population?

The community of Salima is the most numerous, about 2,000 people. Here the inhabitants have identified as crucial to their development, the economic reactivation.  This latter can be obtained also through training in new trades as well as traditional ones (predominantly involved in fishing). They have also shown interest in the strengthening of their civil organization, to implement alternative activities for children and training for families, in order to decrease domestic violence. In terms of infrastructure, some homes are not habitable and the school collapsed. The water does not even get into the houses, but at least they have drinking water collection points enough for everyone.  Currently several meetings have already took place for the empowerment of the community. The bakery course has started and the participants are already thinking of a community bakery.

The community “10 de Agosto” has more or less 250 inhabitants. Like in Salima, the participation in the meeting was extensive, women, men and many children. Being almost all fishermen (even the women), they have the same intention of “rebuilding” starting from new skills to learn: for women that of hairdressing, because in this area this service is absent and could also be offered it to neighbouring villages; then also training on the confectionery industry, food in general, fishing tools. The families of the community are also interested in the construction of latrines for those families who do not have sanitation facilities, and to recover and create training and Leisure spaces for children and adolescents. The FEPP carried out community empowerment courses and is currently doing the hairdressing course for women.

Finally we met the community of Macara, home to about 600 people. At this meeting the participation was almost entirely feminine. The main problem exposed concerned the lack of sources of drinking water for the community, but also here, the people have expressed the desire to learn new trades, mainly personal care, tailoring, welding, agriculture. They are also interested in courses for the training of young people and families, in order to curb cases of violence, drug and alcohol addiction. In this community the request for support for the reconstruction of houses was important, because the earthquake hit strongly the very vulnerable people. The FEPP has carried out community empowerment courses and courses for personal care.”

In late February the training activities currently underway should be completed while the next interventions are already being studied on the basis of the main needs identified by the affected communities themselves.

Photo: meeting with the community, “August 10”, November 2016


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